Fixing Your Digestion (Part 1)

Hey folks, if you haven’t read my previous post “Top To Bottom: How Your Digestion Works” I recommend reading it to give you the background necessary to get the most out of this post, and help resolve your digestive issues.

Your digestion works top to bottom (pun intended) starting with your brain ( top) and the anticipation of food, and ending with  elimination (bottom).

When addressing any kind of digestive dysfunction we need start from the top and work our way down. Problems start uphill and roll downhill in our digestion.

Before getting started I want to ask if you ever experience any of the following ?

  • Upset stomach

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Heartburn

  • Constant burping (especially around meals)

  • Indigestion

  • Feeling of excessive fullness after eating

  • Bloating

  • Indigestion

  • Gas within 1 hour of eating

These are all common signs that dysfunction is happening in your gut, or that the body is experiencing a healing reaction.

Most likely the body is trying to send you message that something is wrong and  needs to be addressed.

Most people experience the symptoms listed above and brush them off as “normal”. We tend to use medication to suppress symptoms, leaving the underlying cause unaddressed.

Enough with the doom and gloom though! the purpose of this post is to help inform and arm you with the knowledge and tools to begin solving your own digestive problems.

Throw away your package of tums and keep reading if you’re interested in improving your health and empowering yourself.

The Brain: Rest and Digest

We need to be in a parasympathetic state (rest and digest) to allow the body to get ready for food. This sets the stage for proper breakdown of foods in the stomach.

As a culture we are stressed out, and many people shovel lunch out of their tupperware into their mouth barely chewing.

All the while working on a on a new cover letter for the TPS report...your digestion did not get the memo.

Taking the time to get away from screens and relax around your food is crucial. It allows you to better digest foods , and gets you in tune with with your hunger. Are you still eating because you are hungry or are you in a robot like work mode ? Aim for eating until you are no longer hungry for the next bite, not until you are full.

The Mouth: Breaking It Down

We all know the person who inhales their food at a remarkable rate, then complains about how full they are or how bad their stomach hurts. Don’t be that guy.

Chewing is a fundamentally ignored part of our digestion, I’ll admit it is not sexy to talk to people about chewing and how their mom was right all along.

When you don’t adequately chew your food the brain doesn’t get the signal to prepare the stomach for the incoming food. Stomach acid is a critical part of our digestion, when we lack it we can’t properly break down and digest foods.

When we do not chew well enough passes the rest of that burden on to the stomach, and the production of saliva is not triggered. Who cares about saliva right ? it’s just our spit...well not exactly.

Saliva: Why Give a Spit ?

Out saliva is a complex blend of electrolytes, hormones and enzymes that play roles in our digestion. The main enzyme in our saliva is amylase which is responsible for the chemical breakdown of carbohydrates.

If we do not chew well enough amylase is not secreted and the breakdown of carbohydrates does not begin in our mouth.

By not properly breaking down carbohydrates in the mouth we leave the burden to finish job on our small intestine and pancreas, but without adequate chewing the stomach and pancreas can’t do their own job as well.

The key here is to chew your food well, at least 20-30 times per bite. Your food should be a liquid when you are done chewing. To help try putting your fork down in between bites.

The Stomach: All About The Acid  

As you learned from reading my last blog post, the stomach is all about creating an acidic environment so foods can be broken down and trigger enzyme release.

But there are a number of factors that prevent the body from creating the necessary acidic environment some include:

  • Not relaxing before Eating

  • Not chewing foods well enough

  • Stress

  • Excess carbohydrate consumption

  • Nutrient deficiencies ( Zinc & B Vitamins)

  • Alcohol Consumption

  • Allergies (Food or environment related)

The above bullets describe the average american which makes it  safe to assume that most of us are not producing enough stomach acid to digest foods optimally.

So what happens when we don’t have enough stomach acid ? Nothing good...

To begin with our first line of defense against pathogenic microorganisms is gone. The acidity of the stomach prevents bacteria, viruses and parasites from living and making it into our digestive tract and then blood making us sick.

The Heartburn Myth

When we are deficient in stomach acid the ability to break down foods and trigger further digestion is hindered. The partially digested foods sit and wait for the next step in digestion.

Over time these foods sitting in our gut  start to ferment causing bloating and pressure to build. The pressure has to be relieved and the valve between our stomach and esophagus is not meant to open upward - but with enough pressure it will be forced open.

The release of pressure upwards creates a reflux or backward flow of the acidic foods from the stomach into the esophagus. It burns the esophagus because it is not made for an acidic environment like the stomach.

Supporting Your Digestion Tips:

  • Relax Before Eating  - Put away all electronics and move away from the TV. Smell, see and even touch your food before eating to allow the body to begin digestion, and get ready to break down food.
     

  • Support Stomach Acid Production: Drink 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in 4 ounces of water  15-20 minutes before a meal to kickstart HCL production. You can use Digestive bitters 15 minutes before a meal or use a HCL supplement.
     

  • Drink Slowly At Meals: If you throw back two full pint glasses of water along with a lot of food at meal this will only further dilute stomach acid. Try to consume less liquid with meals and Sip slowly when you do.
     

  • Chew Your Food Well: No one wants to hear that their mom was right, but she was. Try chewing each bite 20-30 times, it should be closer to a liquid than a solid by the time you swallow it. Try putting your fork down between bites as  reminder.
     

  • Hydrate Throughout The Day: We are all chronically dehydrated. Too much fruit juice, coffee and soda and not enough clean pure water. Digestion is a taxing process for the body and many fluids are required , the base of those fluids is...water.
     

  • Eat Slower and Take Pauses: By chewing your foods better you will naturally slow down your eating a bit. This will allow your body to signal when you are no longer hungry for the next bite. Ask am I really hungry for the next bite ? When we overload our digestion with too much food we get bloated, gassy and have digestive pain.
     

  • Consume Less Alcohol and Processed Carbs: By consuming these alone or together at meals we squelch the production of stomach acid. Not to mention the extreme blood sugar spike and potential fat gain.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.


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Part 2 Coming Soon...

Top To Bottom: How Your Digestion Works

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When discussing health challenges people are quick to overlook digestion as a root cause of the issue, but recently people have started to overstep the bounds of what we can prove when it comes to gut health.

Now If we can’t properly break down and use the nutrients from foods we eat on a daily basis then yes we will lack the fundamental raw materials the body requires to make hormones, recover, repair and function properly. 

The big thing to keep in mind is that gut health while very important is not the cure all some people are claiming it to be, and there’s a lot of claims made that are plain untrue such as gut health stopping someone from losing body fat.

Fat loss is a calorie balance equation and microbes and or poor digestion can not change that, while they may make you feel bloated that is not true body fat.

 A future blog is going to be devoted to how dysfunction can take place at each stage of digestion, and how to address the underlying problem, not just the symptom of the problem.

It's important to understand how things work before trying to understand the reason for dysfunction  

Where It All Begins: The Brain

We have the rest and digest (think relaxing and eating) or fight, flight and freeze (think an argument with a stranger or doing a boxing class) states.

To be able to properly digest foods you need to be in the rest and digest state, as this allows your body to prepare for the process of breaking down and digesting food.

By taking the time to cook, smell, touch and just be around your food before eating it your body is allowed to prepare for food and you dive into the rest and digest state.

The salivary glands secrete saliva, and the stomach starts to release the proper gastric juice in anticipation of food. 

The Physical Gatekeeper: The Mouth


The mouth is where chemical and mechanical breakdown of the foods begin with our chewing.

Our mother was right when she told us to chew our food well as it can be a really helpful step in improving your digestion.

Saliva contains an enzyme named amylase which begins the breakdown of carbohydrates in the mouth.

The more we chew our foods and break them down, the less our stomach has to pick up the slack left by our lazy jaw habits. 

Interestingly enough some indigenous cultures that eat a very high carb diet naturally have much higher levels of amylase in their saliva

Big Poppa: The Stomach

When you food is swallowed it travels down the esophagus and enters into one of the most important organs of the digestive system, the stomach.

Because you did such a great job chewing your food the brain and stomach knew food was on the way.

Your stomach prepared for the that food by releasing the highly acidic gastric juices that are necessarily in this stage of digestion.

Those digestive juices include hydrochloric acid (HCL) and pepsinogen/pepsin.

The acidity of the stomach is important for killing bacteria and parasites from outside the body and from food as well. The acidity of the stomach is important for activating pepsin which breaks down proteins.

When the food arrives in the stomach it is coated in HCL further mechanically and chemically broken down and mixed until it becomes an acidic “paste”.

I know this sounds gross but its what happens every time we eat…

This very acidic paste named chyme is then released into the upper part of the small intestine. 


Small Intestine: An Organ and Gland

The small intestine secretes two important hormones into the bloodstream: Secretin and Cholecystokinin (CCK).  

Secretin triggers  the pancreas to release bicarbonate and pancreatic juices. Bicarbonate reduces the acidity of the chyme so it doesn’t burn the small intestine.

CCK signals the gallbladder to release bile, which is released to break down and absorb fats.

Pancreatic enzymes are released that breakdown of protein, fats and carbs once the chyme is less acidic.

Carbohydrates become glucose molecules, proteins becomes amino acids and peptides and fats are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol molecules.

By the time that the chyme leaves the small intestine it is almost completely digested, but not yet absorbed.

Millions of small finger like projections named villi stick up from the small intestine with the important job of absorbing the nutrient molecules.

The nutrient molecules are distributed throughout the body where needed. The leftover chyme consisting of indigestible fibers, bile and water get passed into large intestine (colon).

The Great Recycler: The Large Intestine

In the large intestine water is reabsorbed and recycled, and any lost nutrients that are still available are converted to fuel to nourish the colon cells and bacteria.

This colon also where the majority of the bacteria in your digestive system live as well.

These bacteria play numerous roles in everything from helping with digestion all the way to producing the Vitamin K2 thats import for bone and cardiovascular health.

These gut bacteria can impact mood and much more, however that is a subject for another blog! The digestive journey comes to an end with the forming and expulsion of the feces. 

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Fill out the coaching application and let’s chat about how to get you to your goals in record time while still eating your favorite foods.

Let’s set a game plan to finally fit back into those favorite pants, stop hiding in family and friends pictures and allow you to walk around with more confidence in yourself and your body everyday!


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